Although Kaberi and I returned from the Ourense Film Festival, Galicia, Spain almost a month ago, many aspects of the experience have stuck in our minds. This is largely due to the kindness of all the people we met there, especially festival director Enrique Nicanor, his wife Cayetana, his festival team and Professor José Paz, as well as Thelma Putnam and her dance students at the Escuela de Artes Escénicas y Musicales de Ourense. It was also a pleasure to share the experience with our fellow guests Charlotte Appelgren, who was on the Feature Film competition jury, and her husband Rune.
As I wrote in my previous post, our film Shyama was featured in a special section dedicated to the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Kaberi launched the section with two Tagore dances at the opening ceremony. Séamas McSwiney made a 5-minute film of her performance, which you’ll find below.
Our activities in Ourense were covered quite extensively in the Galician press. Kaberi’s performance during the opening ceremony for a capacity audience at the 1,000-seat Auditorium led to this article in La Región (Reviviendo el mito de Tagore). It was also mentioned in this article in La Voz de Galicia (Ourense acolleu a estrea de «18 comidas» en España logo do premio acadado en Taormina) and this article in Faro de Vigo (El OUFF se pone el “sari” para homenajear a Tagore en una gala amenizada por Luis Tosar).
The following morning, at a press conference about the premiere of the Spanish version of Shyama the next day, we had our first opportunity to meet Professor José Paz, the founder of the Tagore Library of Ourense. Towards the end of our visit, we visited his impressive library of some 30,000 books by or about Tagore and people related to him, mainly published in European languages. Professor Paz has collected them all over the world. It must be the largest such collection outside India and Bangladesh.
On the Monday, the Spanish premiere of Shyama was held at Ourense’s Teatro Principal. The theatre was built in 1830 and was a cinema for a while from 1915, with occasional events and visiting plays. The premiere was the first time that Shyama has been shown on a full-size (9m) cinema screen using an HD (1920×1080) projector from an HD source – our MacBook Pro with an HD version of the film on an external hard drive.
Before the screening, festival director Enrique Nicanor introduced the evening with Professor Paz. With the help of interpreter Óscar Iglesias, Kaberi and I then gave a 30-minute illustrated presentation about Tagore’s journey from poetry to dance. The presentation included live performances of two Tagore songs and Kaberi performed a Tagore dance to a recital of Tagore’s poem Jhulon (Swinging) by Supriyo Tagore. Kaberi also illustrated the Indian classical dance styles Manipuri, Bharatanatyam and Kathakali.
The audience was very appreciative and generous with its applause, both for our presentation and for Shyama.
Having read my paper on Digital film economics, Enrique Nicanor had kindly suggested that I should give a masterclass about ‘Shyama and the digital revolution’ while I was in Ourense. This took place the following afternoon.
Most of the 100 or so people who came seemed to be between 18 and 22. Although I spoke in English with interpretation, I’d prepared the presentation in Galician using Google Translate, which earned me a round of applause quite early on. Kaberi filmed the event and I’m hoping to post a video of it soon.
After this, we had a couple of days before the next event in the Tagore section of the festival: the Brikkhoropon (tree-planting ceremony). However, for this event, Kaberi needed to prepare a group of 14-15-year-old dance students who would be dancing in the procession.
The first step was to meet Thelma Putnam, the dance teacher at the Escuela de Artes Escénicas y Musicales de Ourense, so that Kaberi could discuss the details of the ceremony. The day before the ceremony, Kaberi rehearsed for a couple of hours with Thelma’s students, who were excited to meet Kaberi and discover a new type of dance.
As well as being one of the dancers, Thelma’s daughter Alana acted as interpreter for Kaberi. The 10 girls and 4 boys picked up the steps within an hour or so and then discussed what costumes they should wear. Everyone was to wear loose, white clothes with a colourful cloth around their waists.
On the day of the Brikkhoropon, there was excitement in the air as Kaberi set about using flowers to decorate the palanquin on which the tree would be carried and the umbrella which would follow the procession. Everything had been arranged on the basis of the two photos of the ceremony in Santiniketan which you see here, which we had sent to Enrique Nicanor. The palanquin had been created by a carpenter especially for the ceremony.
Of course, that was one of the few days it rained during our visit to Ourense. So the original outdoor route was changed to an indoor one which started in front of the Cinebox cinemas where several of the film festival screenings were being held and followed a blue carpet to a covered area outside the shopping centre.
Professor José Paz, Francisco Rodríguez, the Mayor (Alcalde) of Ourense, Isabel Pérez, President of the Ourense Film Festival and Galicia’s Concelleira de Cultura, and Enrique Nicanor, director of the film festival, took part in the ceremony. We followed the traditional format of the Brikkhoropon, with Óscar explaining the Tagore texts read out by Kaberi and my brief summary of Tagore’s deep environmental concern decades before a green movement developed in the West.
My summary was based on the more detailed research by Tagore authority Professor Somendranath Bandhopadhyay, which he had explained to us over the phone from Santiniketan a few weeks earlier. Professor Paz told the assembled crowd and dignitaries about the background to the ceremony, which he has seen in Santiniketan. And so we staged what was probably the first Brikkhoropon in Europe.
Afterwards, Kaberi was interviewed by Rosa Veiga for Galicia Gastronomica. With the help of Cayetana and Thelma, she answered a series of thought-provoking questions about her views about food and cooking.
You will understand from this why the experience has left a deep impression on Kaberi and me. Of course, we were so busy with all of these activities (and filming Kaberi’s 2-minute introduction to our Tagore dance film trilogy) that we will need to return to Galicia to explore its beautiful landscape, and to experience its delicious food and drink again with our new friends there.